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News and Comments - Kent Independent Education Advice

News and Comments

The latest news posted by Peter J Read; just click on a news item below to read it in full. Feel free to subscribe to the news via the email link to the right or the RSS Feed at the bottom of the page. Please note that the over 800 regular subscribers who receive each news item directly are not included in the number of readers recorded below the item, who have gone beyond the headlines to look at the full article.  If you have a view on any item posted, please leave a comment.

Please feel free to suggest items of news, or areas where comment is needed to: peter@kentadvice.co.uk.

 
News items below appear below as and when I have time in a very busy schedule supporting clients.

The National Schools Commissioner, on visits to Folkestone Academy and the Turner Free School is reported to have praised the progress of the two schools without apparently noticing the many failures documented on this site. These amount to nearly 10% of all the academies he has visited since he was appointed last September out of a total of  8,678. In a fresh controversy, it has now been alleged that  the Turner Free School lost a Vice Principal, in employment for just eight weeks from the opening of the school last September, who left the school and teaching in part because of alleged homophobia by his employer.

I wrote about the Ofsted Inspection that placed Delce Academy in Special Measures, in June, describing what appeared to be a self-destruct mechanism on the part of the school and the Castle Trust which ran it. I concluded: ‘This is another Academy Trust that is not fit for purpose and the Regional Schools Commissioner should be considering re-brokering it to a more competent body’. Last week the Trust wrote to parents to tell them the school was being transferred to the Inspire Academy Trust.

Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey was once again found to Require Improvement in its recent Ofsted inspection, but what specifically caught my eye was the  phrase: ‘however, recent changes to the support available for vulnerable pupils have led to a reduction in fixed-term exclusions’. Hardly consistent with my recent FOI request that found a further increase from the previous year when Oasis had the second highest number and proportion in Kent! The inspection took place shortly after a fundamental structural change for September was announced which will see all Year 7 to 11 pupils taught on a single site, the current two bases being nearly two miles apart. This positive decision is only made possible by a remarkable decline of 550 pupils on roll since Oasis took over in 2013, a loss of over a quarter of the total since then. 


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I apologise to the many browsers who have asked over the past six months when this annual article was to be published. There have been a multitude of delays and I have only recently received the authorised data from KCC. 

The table below shows that almost exactly 25% of Kent children were found selective by the Kent procedure, with the pass mark presumably set to fit in with the expected 6% of children found selective (nearly a quarter of the total) through the Head Teacher Assessment procedure. 

Possibly the main news headline should be that for the best chance of success at the Kent Test from a state school, you should be a girl living in Canterbury or a boy living in Sevenoaks. 7 schools saw over half of the cohort found selective, the highest proportions being at St Thomas' Catholic Primary, Sevenoaks (68%), followed by Gateway Primary Academy, Dartford (61%), Ethelbert Road, Faversham (60%); Blean, Canterbury (57%) and Selling CofE, Faversham (56%).  
       Gateway               Sheldwich 4
 
For the first time in many years the proportions of boys and girls being found selective are almost identical, 25.3% and 25.0% respectively, girls being on top for several years previously.

Canterbury has by some way the highest proportion of successful HTAs at 11% of the whole cohort, driven by 14% of all girls being found selective in this way, almost half of the total grammar assessments in Canterbury at 30% of the cohort. 

There is a further increase in the proportion of children on Pupil Premium being found selective to 10.3% of the total. 40% of these are via HTA, as against 25% for all pupils showing that the system is supportive of those children, contrary to some views expressed elsewhere. Further details on PP below.  

40% of the 427 children with Pupil Premium were selected through Headteacher Assessment, having not reached the automatic pass mark. Government policies to improve the PP rate of grammar school selection by lowering the pass mark are therefore irrelevant in Kent (but not Medway)

 The number of Out of County children tested and the number of passes continue to rise inexorably, by 330 this year to 3065,  but with a number of Kent grammar schools reprioritising  to give preference to Kent children, the number eventually being offered places for 2019 admission fell to 399, down from 454 in 2018.


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Update: The Schools Week website has followed up on this story. Also contains further updates

Kent County Council is pulling out of its management agreement with Swale Academy Trust for The North School, Ashford, at very short notice, formally serving that notice on 22nd July that the contract would end 31st August. Until that point it had  providing no formal reason for its action, leaving considerable uncertainty about arrangements for September. This follows a similar decision by KCC last year at the Holmesdale School in Cuxton, which proved highly controversial, created chaos and which I covered extensively here and here.

Swale Academies Trust has managed The North since early 2014, after the school was placed in Special Measures by Ofsted in December 2013, although there is a considerable background  to this as described here. Swale took the school back up to Good less than four years later, although managing to overspend some £200,000  pounds per year to achieve this, reducing a financial surplus of £244,000 to a large deficit of  £768,357 at the end of this financial year, which now needs to be paid back. The Trust took robust actions to achieve the strong performance, its usual style and although the school  suffered a slump in popularity, with for example the large staff turnover, it has now recovered this following the successful Ofsted Inspection.

The North 2

There is no doubt that the school and the Swale Trust are now integrated to a considerable extent through: staffing - some teachers being Swale employees; school support; and the Swale culture, through combined training events for staff, etc It could be that this is just a money saving decision, saving £150,000 per annum management fee, although there has been no such suggestion put forward, but there is surely a contract between the two parties in place. To tear this apart at such short notice will be immensely damaging to the school. Whatever, there will be no £200,000 extra to spend next year which is going to lead to considerable economies.  According to Schools Week, SAT’s chief executive Jon Whitcombe has warned staff that the possibility of the school joining SAT is “now in doubt”. 

It is reported that shockingly no information has been sent to parents about this damaging situation. 


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I do not normally extend my coverage of news and information about Kent and Medway schools to look at the world of Kent Further Education. But for those not aware of the ongoing scandals most recently swirling about  the Hadlow Group of Colleges, you should know that these dwarf anything seen in school education.

The FE Commissioner has heavily criticised the Group, currently comprising West Kent College, Ashford College and Hadlow College together with six subsidiary businesses (including Hadlow Rural Community School) for a ‘corporate failure of leadership, financial management and governance’ .  The link article is an excellent outline of the Group's structure and the cause of the problems. He has recommended that it be broken up and split between North Kent College and East Kent Colleges Group (which itself recently took over struggling Canterbury College), a small part concerned with animal management going to Capel Manor College in Enfield. A follow up letter from the relevant Minster in the DfE refers to the College as being in a perilous position. 


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Just two weeks ago, when I published an article on Oversubscription and Vacancies Medway Primary Schools for September 2019, I was so concerned about the self-evident mismanagement at Delce Academy, that I devoted a special section to the school, the only one I picked out in this way.

It was therefore no great surprise to me that yesterday Ofsted published a Report on an Inspection which placed Delce Academy in Special Measures concluding that: ‘Since the last inspection, leaders and those responsible for governance have been ineffective in ensuring that pupils have received an acceptable quality of education’

Delce Academy

Just two years ago, a previous inspection concluded that the school Required Improvement, down from Good, but in this latest verdict there is no indication that the school or its leaders, including the Local Advisory Body for the school and the Directors of the Castle Trust, have drawn lessons from this or have any clue how to improve matters.‘Parents and carers told inspectors that they had lost faith in the leadership of the school. Parents are deeply concerned by high staff turnover, standards of behaviour at the school and the lack of communication from the trust and school leaders’.

This indictment surely goes some way to explain why numbers applying for places at the school have fallen away so sharply in both the Junior and controversial new Infant sections but, as always it is the children that pay the price, in stark contrast to the school motto: 'Learning Towards a Brighter Future'.  Those responsible for this totally preventable disaster will as usual walk away unscathed. 


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Index

Update: Copperfield Academy has been issued with a remarkable and very positive Ofsted Monitoring Inspection Report, described here

Both schools have been issued with tough letters from the Regional Schools Commissioner, threatening to remove them from their current sponsors, REAch2 in the case of Copperfield Academy in Northfleet, Gravesham, and Rainham Mark Education Trust in the case of Twydall Primary in Gillingham, Medway.

Copperfield Academy  for Website

 The letter for Copperfield is rightly the more brutal for I have recorded the misfortunes of the children of this school many times on this site, first in 2011, although a more recent article traces them back to around 2003 and there is currently no let up. This letter notes that: ‘the persons responsible for leading, managing, or governing the school are not demonstrating the capacity to secure the necessary improvement in the school’ and sets five specific conditions for improvement, including: that pupil performance improves by the end of 2018/19 (the recently taken SATs); that the next Ofsted Inspection removes the Inadequate label; and that no other REAch2 school from the 13 in the local region fails its Ofsted.

The Twydall letter was written in November 2018, before the 2018 Key Stage 2 results were published (see below), which show the school making rapid improvement from a troubled history that was topped off by a Serious Weaknesses Ofsted Inspection Report in June 2018. A Monitoring Inspection Report in April 2019 is wholly positive.  

You will find more details about Copperfield and Twydall below


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Index

The proportion of Medway children offered one of their choices in a Medway primary school has risen slightly to 97.8%, the highest proportion for at least six years. There is just one minor reduction in one school's Planned Admission number with a total of 3955 places available. As a result, there are 535 vacancies across the 67 schools, which is 13% of the total available.

Fewest vacancies are on the Hoo Peninsula at 8% total, down from 11% in 2018. Just three of the nine schools have vacancies. Most vacancies are in Rochester with just one school, The Pilgrim School, significantly oversubscribed. 

Most popular school is once again Barnsole Primary which turned away 63 first choices, followed by Horsted Infants with 39 and Swingate 35. Barnsole and Swingate are the only two of the ten most oversubscribed schools to feature in both years. There are ten schools with 15 or more first choices turned down, spread across the Authority, and listed in the table below. 

Barnsole     Horsted School   Swingate

Eight schools have over a third of their places empty, down from 12 in 2017, headed this year by Elaine Primary with 70% of its places unfilled, brought down under the Williamson Trust, not exactly faring much better under its new sponsors The Inspire Partnership who have delivered at 35%, the lowest proportion of pupils reaching the Expected Standard and the second lowest Writing Progress score in Medway at KS2. Next comes Delce Academy with 67% empty places (featured in detail below) and then  third year running by Allhallows Primary Academy 53% ( but improving on all measures). See below for more details on both these last two schools.  Altogether 37 schools, over half of the total of 67 primary schools have vacancies in their Reception classes. 75 Medway children  were offered none of their choices and have been allocated to other schools with vacancies by Medway Council,  spread out across 22 schools, with 41 in Chatham and Gillingham schools.  

I look more closely at each Medway area separately,below, links as follows: Chatham; Gillingham; Hoo Peninsula; Rainham; Rochester; Strood, together with the situation for Junior Schools, here

If there are sections that need amplification, please let me know…….


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Update on Skinners' School Appeals: In spite of the new Admission criteria, I forecast there would be around five successful appeals as in previous years. I now have it confirmed that there were exactly five!

Update on Skinner's School Registration Form (see below). I understand that after this article was drawn to the attention of Governors, the unlawful Registration Form was changed. 

The issue of off-rolling is at last bubbling around official circles after many years of the practice being ignored. Ofsted has now come up with a formal definition although it can still be very difficult to prove, as many of those affected are vulnerable in different ways, reluctant to complain, fearful of the school, or simply do not know the actions are unlawful. 

OFSTED DEFINITION OF OFF-ROLLING
Off-rolling is the practice of removing a pupil from the school roll without using a permanent exclusion, when the removal is primarily in the best interests of the school, rather than the best interests of the pupil. This includes pressuring a parent to remove their child from the school roll.

It can happen in any type of school, as I demonstrated a couple of years ago, when I exposed the Invicta Grammar scandal which went national and resulted in government being forced to clarify the existing law. Two concerned families recently sent me copies of the Registration Form for new pupils at The Skinners’ School, a super-selective grammar. This unlawfully provides for the Governors to be able to require the removal of any pupil on the recommendation of the Headmaster that it is desirable, explored in detail below!!!!!

A major pointer to off-rolling taking place is a large percentage fall in numbers between the start of Year 10 and January of Year 11 along with, or alternatively, high Elective Home Education numbers (EHE). The importance of the January date is that after this, pupils leaving the school will have their GCSE performance (or absence) counted in official outcomes. Nine Kent and three Medway schools lost between 7% and 14% of their cohort in this way  this year, five of them for at least two years running. 


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